Monday, 10 November 2008

Qualification for writing?

Hello AJ, I have two questions.
The first one is, if somebody had no prior writing "qualification", is it impossible for that person to ever be published? I have a science degree and have never taken a writing class but have spent my whole life writing. I've been honing my 'craft' by sharing my work with other writers on the net and listening to their suggestions and incorporating most of them. Do people have to have writing experience that can be seen on paper?
Writing Qualification.
Hello Diamond-Raven. Thank you for the questions.
Having a recognized qualification in creative writing certainly isn’t a prerequisite to becoming published; originality of ideas and enthusiasm are factors that are more important.
Having said that, publishers are a funny old lot. Sometimes they’ll only consider you if you have experience, yet how can you get experience without getting published? I solved it by writing for magazines for years. There are always ways to get noticed, the Internet is an excellent medium.

Having said that, an understanding of techniques is necessary in order to impart those ideas successfully. I generally advise new writers to purchase a textbook, or take a course on creative writing. It can save years of frustration wondering why your work isn’t acceptable. Writing is a craft that can be taught - that's the qualification you need. When the craft reaches publication standard, it becomes an art.

Bullying and homophobia
AJ, my second question is a bit more sensitive in nature. I have been wanting to write a book loosely based on my experiences in high school as an atypical student and now as a teacher. Specifically, I want to address issues of bullying and homophobia in schools. Both of these issues are such important issues these days (and to me on a very personal level), but I feel that few books accurately portray either of these topics. However, I know the story would definitely be stepping on some conservative toes. Is it better to simply not bother trying to publish books that discuss issues that so many people are still highly polarized on or would I have a chance?
The issue of content is irrelevant. If you find a subject important, chances are so will millions of others. The days of censorship are long gone thank goodness. Treading on toes is no bad idea; in fact the more controversial you are, the more likely you'll reach the readership you're after.
    Connected to that, do you believe that writing books that question things in our society today actually achieve anything? Do you believe that books have the power to actually reach the people at whom the messages in the books are aimed? 
    Raven, writing books that raise important issues, question moralities, or query society is surely the right of a free society. Questioning what we do is the only way to advance. The power of books is paramount, isn’t that what book burning was about in dictator-led communities – the sure knowledge that books can and do influence the way people think?
    Never underestimate the power of the written word. Even in these days of alternative communications such as TV, radio and the Internet, books are still extremely important.
    I hope this has gone a small way towards answering your questions, Diamond-Raven. Good luck with your work.

      End of - Qualification for writing?

      1 comment:

      Anonymous said...

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful answers! I am definitely feeling more confident about the story now, which as you probably know is a huge motivator to sit down and start typing away.